The Realities of Working as a Nurse in Northern Canada

Find out why working as a nurse in Northern Canada offers unique experiences, and professional growth opportunities.

If you’ve been working as a nurse, you’re well aware of the realities of this career in a clinical or hospital setting, but have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like to try northern nursing? Evolving in a Northern Canadian community requires a whole new set of skills and presents its own challenges, sensitivities, and rewards. Let’s uncover what this job entails!

Northern Canada: An Overview

Northern Canada refers to the region that encompasses the northernmost parts of Canada, generally located above the 60th parallel of latitude. It includes the three territories of Canada: Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, as well as parts of the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

Northern Canada is known for its vast and sparsely populated landscapes, including tundra, boreal forests, mountains, and Arctic coastlines. The region is characterized by its harsh and extreme climates, with long, cold winters and relatively short summers.

mountain in Canada

The population of Northern Canada is relatively small compared to the rest of the country, and it is home to a diverse mix of Indigenous communities, including the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples. These communities have rich cultural traditions and have historically relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering for their subsistence.

Given its unique geographical and environmental characteristics, Northern Canada faces distinct challenges and opportunities. Issues such as remote access to services, infrastructure development, preservation of Indigenous cultures, environmental conservation, and climate change adaptation are among the key considerations in the region.

Given these factors, you can easily imagine what impact a limited access to healthcare means to Indigenous communities, and therefore the importance of nurses in the region.

When sending nurses to these parts of Canada, particularly in Northern Ontario and Alberta, professionals are trained to take on an expanded role and learn to face new responsibilities that await in Northern Canada.


Challenges Faced by Nurses in Northern Canada

As detailed in the Rural and Remote Nursing Practice in Canada discussion document from the Canadian Association for Rural and Remote Nursing, nurses in Northern Canada face numerous challenges.

Included are limited resources in the local healthcare facilities that affect patient outcomes, and a need for accrued cultural awareness as nurses experience traditions and cultural differences first-hand. Personal experiences vary, but harsh weather conditions also impact the job opportunities.

Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity

nurse at hospital holding tubes

Cultural awareness and sensitivity are of paramount importance in Northern Nursing. In this region, nurses often provide care to diverse Indigenous communities with unique cultural beliefs, practices, and healthcare needs.

Understanding and respecting the cultural backgrounds of patients is essential for delivering culturally competent care, building trust, and fostering effective communication.

Cultural awareness enables nurses to adapt their approaches, incorporate traditional healing practices when appropriate, and provide holistic care that respects patients’ values and preferences.

By being culturally sensitive, nurses can promote patient-centred care, reduce health disparities, and contribute to positive health outcomes for individuals and communities in Northern Canada.

For more information on how to prepare for an adventure in the Great North, read this article, and delve into the reasons to choose to work in the Far North!

« “Welcome home” were the words said to me by one of community members and I will never forget that moment and the way I felt. It is awe inspiring, the impact nurses have on our clients. We take for granted that we get to ‘go home’ and often forget that we are working somewhere that others call their own. With scarce resources, we have the privilege of being there to support them and give th the healthcare we take for granted in the south. It took me 2 years to get the credentials necessary to work with CHCA and I can honestly say, this is my dream job with a fantastic company! Welcome to northern nursing and CHCA. »

Tanya Williams, nurse

Job Opportunities for Nurses in Northern Canada

Benefits of working as a nurse in Northern Canada include opportunities to work closely with diverse communities, gaining valuable cultural insights, contributing to the health and well-being of underserved populations, experiencing unique and breathtaking landscapes, and potentially accessing financial incentives and professional growth opportunities specific to the region. Click here to view the Northern nursing job openings available!